UW News

September 4, 2001

Digital mammography research study enters trials at UW with faster imaging technique

The University of Washington Medical Clinic-Roosevelt, at 4245 Roosevelt Way NE in Seattle, is the only local site for an international study of the use of digital imaging in mammography. The research study currently recruiting about 2,500 patients will examine the ability of digital mammography to find breast cancer as compared it to current film-based techniques.

According to manufacturers of the equipment, for some women digital mammography may require a lower radiation dose, due to the greater sensitivity of the system. Digital mammography uses a computer instead of film to make a mammogram. The computer can process the mammogram, possibly making abnormal areas easier for the breast imaging specialist to find and evaluate.

The images are also stored in a computer, allowing faster comparison of mammograms made over a period of time. Additionally, these computerized images can be transmitted to other sites via e-mail or satellite transmission, allowing the patient’s primary care practitioner to confer with specialists while everyone looks at the same images.

During this 18-month study, all women who schedule at the Roosevelt mammography clinic for a standard screening mammogram can participate as long as they are not pregnant, do not have implants or are not suffering symptoms of a breast disorder. Each participant will receive both a standard mammogram as well as a digital one during a single visit. There is no additional cost to the woman or her insurance company for the digital mammogram. The digital and conventional mammograms will be evaluated separately. If a biopsy is needed, expert breast pathologists will review the biopsied tissue.

“An ongoing smaller research study shows that when women participate in the study and receive both the standard mammogram and the digital mammogram, 26 percent more cancers are found,” said Dr. Anne Freitas, clinical associate professor of radiology at the UW. “This improvement in cancer detection may not be due to the digital mammogram, but may be due to the women receiving both types of mammograms during the same visit.”

Women over 18 years of age are encouraged to sign up for the study by calling UWMC-Roosevelt Clinic breast imaging schedulers for an appointment at (206) 598-7343.

The UW research is part of a larger study sponsored by the American College of Radiology Imaging Network. A total of 49,500 women will take part in the trial at 19 sites in the United States and Canada. The study is funded in part by the National Cancer Institute.